Brazilian Culture

Business Culture

Meetings

  • Appointments for events such as meetings are required. Whilst they can be scheduled on short notice, it is best to book two to three weeks in advance.
  • Arrive on time, but do not necessarily expect your Brazilian counterpart to be punctual. They generally take a more relaxed approach to timekeeping.
  • Business cards are typically exchanged during the beginning of the meeting when introductions are taking place.
  • Meetings may come across as erratic or unstructured. There may be constant interruption of the agenda as people offer ideas as they come to mind.
  • Employees may deeply want to please others and claim to have solutions to problems even if this is not the case. However, they will often hold back their opinions if they run counter to those of their superiors.
  • Brazilians tend to take their time in negotiating a deal. The decision-making process may be slow-paced as Brazilians feel the need to know whom they are doing business with before they can work together.
  • Enthusiasm for beginning new projects does not always follow through to a commitment in seeing the end results. Thus, it may be necessary to constantly track and monitor a project should you want to see the potential of objectives fulfilled.
  • Brazilians may gravitate towards easy, immediate solutions as there is generally less emphasis on long-term planning.
  • Decisions will most likely be made by higher/highest-ranking members of the company.


Women and Business

There is still a certain degree of machismo among Brazilian men. In turn, females may not be treated the same as men in a business setting. For example, women may be subjected to the occasional sexual innuendo and comment from male business associates. Brazilian women are familiar with such situations, and tend to react to them in a nonchalant, light-humoured way. However, with the gradual increase of women entering higher positions, such patriarchal attitudes are gradually fading.


Jeito

Also known in Brazilian-Portuguese as ‘jeitinho brasileiro’, the term translates as ‘finding a way’ or ‘the way around’ an obstacle. It is used to describe the way in which one can get around a formal rule without “breaking” it. If a Brazilian cannot accomplish something by official means, it is common to find a ‘jeito’. The jeito will depend on friends and other important contacts that possess power and influence. However, the notion of jeito also has an everyday application, such as finding a way to skip the line in a queue. Sometimes, all that is necessary is to mention the name of a mutual friend.


The Despachante

Also known as the ‘indispensable middle man’, a ‘despachante’ is someone who will find a way (jeito) through the bureaucratic maze. A despachante charges a fixed fee for their service, depending on how complex the task at hand is. They can handle numerous bureaucratic matters, especially any kind of documents that involve complex and often-inefficient government agencies. They are indispensable in Brazilian public life, as many people do not have the time to wait in line for extended periods of time, or to return to the same government agency repeatedly.


Gift Giving

Gifts are generally not considered particularly important in establishing a business relationship. Thus, people often do not expect gifts in their first few meetings. However, there is etiquette for gift giving in a business setting that is worth noting. Very expensive or lavish gifts may be thought of as a bribe. Moreover, it is considered poor practice to present a gift during a formal business meeting. It is more acceptable to offer the gift in a social setting. Suitable gifts include a nice bottle of alcohol, coffee table books or a branded pen.


Considerations

  • Brazilians tend to pride themselves on dressing well. Dress attire is similar to the Australian expectation of dress in a business setting. It is advisable for men to wear conservative, dark-coloured suits. A suit or dress that is elegant is advisable for women.
  • In Brazil, nepotism is prohibited by law. Personal favouritism is generally frowned upon across society.
  • Titles are considerably important as it helps establish the followed hierarchy. Thus, there is an expectation that titles will be used, such as 'Professor' or 'Doctor'. When using gendered titles such as 'Mr' or 'Ms', the former is ‘senhor’ and the latter is ‘senhora’. In a business conversation, the general practice is to use the title, then the person’s first name rather than their surname (e.g. Ms Jill).
  • Although a substantial number of Brazilians speak English, some may feel more comfortable in a business setting if an interpreter is present.
  • Typically when negotiating, Brazilians will think in terms of US dollars.
  • Brazilian companies are generally paternalistic and forgiving, with employees having the tendency to avoid being confrontational. They are typically indirect and will avoid blatantly saying ‘no’.
  • On the Corruption Perception Index (2016), Brazil ranks 79th out of 176 countries, receiving a score of 40 (on a scale from 0 to 100). This perception suggests that the country’s public sector is somewhat corrupt.
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